Tony’s Story – Stomach Cancer

This is Tony's story, as told by his wife Gill.

March 2018

My husband was 63, a fit, healthy, daily dog walker who had not been to see a doctor for at least 7 years. On a night out when celebrating my 60th birthday, Tony suddenly began to get terrible indigestion that just wouldn’t shift. He had never struggled with indigestion before, but he believed ‘no-one should bother a doctor with something like indigestion’, so he went to the chemist for medication and persevered.

May – September 2018

Two months on, I finally managed to get Tony to visit his GP. He was given further medication and had a few more doctors appointments, but this didn’t work. Tony requested he be tested for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), as we thought the source of his problem could be a stomach ulcer and his doctor obliged. H. pylori can be a cause of stomach cancer. Meanwhile, his indigestion, abdominal pain and feeling of always being full persisted.

Tony’s H. pylori test came back as positive, but unfortunately no-one at our GP practice communicated this with us. Eventually though, Tony received the antibiotics he needed to eradicate the H. pylori and though he started to feel slightly better, he knew something still wasn’t right. Another doctor’s appointment later, Tony was prescribed yet another medication for his indigestion and sent on his way. This time, Tony returned to the doctors for the second time in a month. Tony’s doctor told him “I don’t like the colour of you”, so Tony was tested for prostate cancer. Tony replied “What about his stomach?” His GP responded “Forget about your stomach, this could be something serious.

When his prostate test came back negative, the GP said to Tony “Well, let’s have a look at your gastroscopy results shall we?”, but Tony had not yet been referred for a gastroscopy.

October 2018

Seven months on from his first symptoms, my husband was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Tony never drank much, he ate well and had never smoked. We were shocked, as we had expected to be told that Tony had a stomach ulcer. His cancer was stage four and at this stage, therefore inoperable. If he was diagnosed earlier, he might’ve been able to have surgery.

It was a nightmare. An out of body experience, like when people are talking but you can’t hear. Tony was told if he responded well to chemotherapy, his prognosis could be up to 18 months.

My husband, who thought he may have a stomach ulcer, was now having to process that he had 18 months to live at most, or 6 months if Tony wasn’t medically fit enough to be given chemotherapy.

September 2019

We made the decision to marry and we went on a honeymoon, which was beautiful. We adored travelling and holidaying together, and Tony remained positive throughout his treatment, and fairly well until October.

December 2019

Tony died, surrounded by people who loved and adored him. I want Tony’s story to be his legacy. Why don’t healthcare professionals look at the worst potential outcome and work backwards? In the short term, we must raise all GP’s awareness of stomach cancer symptoms and enable them to act promptly. Early diagnosis is absolutely crucial for the less survivable cancers, like stomach cancer.

My hopes for the future:

Nothing I can do now will bring Tony back, but early interventions and better pathways for digestive cancers will save lives.

  • I hope that stomach cancer can be recognised within the 10-year cancer plan and any other Government cancer policies, with specific actions to improve outcomes for patients and families like mine.
  • I hope that with robust research conducted by charities like Guts UK, the UK can develop an action plan, kinder treatments and improved life expectancy.
  • I hope that we can improve the frighteningly low public awareness rates of the symptoms of cancers like stomach cancer. It’s important that people feel empowered to seek help.

It’s important to Tony’s loved ones that my husband’s legacy lives on the form of helping others, and changing the future.

The less survivable cancers (lung, brain, liver, pancreatic, oesophageal and stomach) are responsible for half of all deaths from common cancers in the UK. We have made incredible progress with the likes of breast and prostate cancer. Now it is time to improve the survivability of the less survivable cancers. It’s time to close the deadly cancer gap. 

Please join me in supporting Guts UK by donating today. You can help prevent what happened to my Tony, happening to someone else.